“I Used To Be Skinny — Then I Transformed My Body Into A Powerhouse”

The right time to start getting fit is right now.


Zinhlezonke Zikalala |

“Growing up, I was always skinny and healthy, but now my body has transformed into a powerhouse. I’m a lot stronger, leaner and, thankfully, faster,” says Phumi Khumalo, a fit star who proves that you’re never too young to start your fitness journey. “I started in Grade 9. I was 15 years old back then,” she says.

It’s A Family Thing…

“I’ve always been a sportsperson, but things really became serious when I got to high school,” says Phumi. She wanted to do something she was good at; something that would make her stand out while benefitting her as a person. Sport was that thing.

It didn’t hurt that her whole family was in it together. “At home, we’re all into fitness, but on different levels. My dad likes walking and running. My mom is an avid walker, but yoga takes first place. My sister enjoys yoga – hot yoga is her favourite. My brother is six, but he runs and plays almost every sport at school. I think that counts.”

Watch: “Fitness Helped Me Deal With Family Drama, Failing Friendships And Depression”

Phumi’s Fitness Routine

“[At school] I was always dedicated to netball and athletics. I’d basically play sport all year round – which meant a lot of Saturday morning games – and trained at least twice a week,” she says. “Since becoming a student at the University of Pretoria, between long days on campus and studying for tests, you’ll find me at the track running (I’m a 400m athlete) or in the gym, six days a week.”

But she had to take care of her nutrition too, being a big meat and sugar fan. “To try and ditch them, my family and I started ‘Meatless Mondays’. As for the sugar, it was a process. I used to give up sugar for Lent, but now, to improve in my sport and get the fuel I need, my dietician has reduced the amount of sugar I consume daily from breakfast all the way through to dinner,” she says.

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What She Eats

Phumi’s dietician created a meal plan to sustain her energy levels throughout the day, so when it’s time to train, she can give it her best. A typical week looks like this: “For breakfast, I’ll have Jungle Oats Muesli (chocolate is the best one) with half a cup of milk. Later on, I’ll snack on an apple, two handfuls of peanuts and raisins. Lunch is half a tin of baked beans with two boiled eggs, followed by a snack that includes two handfuls of peanuts and raisins and one boiled egg. A typical dinner is spaghetti Bolognese, then two cups of jumping jack popcorn as another snack.” After training, she always has two teaspoons of chocolate-flavoured Nesquik with half a cup of milk.

Watch: The 12 Best Foods To Burn Fat And Build Lean Muscle

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3 Things You Need To Know About Phumi

Gym bag essentials? “Earphones are number one. Anyone who knows me, knows I always have my earphones in my ears. Vaseline – it’s multipurpose: you can use it for anything. Lastly, water, for obvious reasons. Hydration is key!”

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Who inspires you? “I love Caster Semenya! She’s one of the most hardworking people, with the strongest mindset. I admire her strength on the track… and her responses to the criticism she receives from other athletes and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).”

Go-to workout tunes? “If you’re looking for some hype music, gqom and rap will give you such a vibe and such a good session! You won’t even feel like you exercised because you’re having so much fun.”

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